The quantum era begins in Slovakia
Ensuring information and communication security in modern society is one of the key issues for the smooth running of the state. The country is only safe if it can protect information at the level of state institutions and its security forces, the health system, financial institutions, air traffic control, energy production and distribution, or the transport system and logistics. In January, the European project Slovak Quantum Communication Infrastructure (skQCI) was launched in Slovakia. Its main goal is to build a quantum communication infrastructure that will connect 12 Slovak academic institutions from Bratislava to Košice. In addition, it will create prerequisites for connection with neighbouring countries or quantum transmission of encryption keys using satellites.
The main project coordinator is the Institute of Physics SAS (FÚ SAV, v.v.i.), which plans to build the southern and northern branches of the Slovak quantum communication layer in the next three years.
Until now, information security was guaranteed by the mathematical complexity of the encryption itself and the secure transmission of encryption keys. With the advent of quantum computers, the performance of which will make it possible to break encryption keys, it is necessary to find new ways of transmitting information that are resistant to cyber-attacks. The solution to such a problem is the transmission of encryption keys using quantum technologies.
"These technologies are based on the use of the laws of quantum physics and the properties of physical systems, such as quantum entanglement, which finds application in the construction of quantum computers, as well as the secure transmission of encryption keys," explains prof. Vladimír Bužek, founder of the Research Center for Quantum Information FÚ SAV, v.v.i.
Quantum key transfer requires a very specific quantum communication infrastructure, which EU member states undertook to build within the EuroQCI initiative. Slovakia decided to join this initiative by building its quantum communication infrastructure. During its construction, many years of experience from quantum information research in Slovakia, the recent quantum transmission of encryption keys between Vienna and Bratislava (financially supported by the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic), as well as cooperation with various European research institutions, will be used.
Slovakia received the funds for the skQCI project from the Digital Europe Programme, launched by the European Commission at the end of 2021. The project aims to build part of the supporting Slovak quantum communication layer of the future European quantum internet. “This project is part of the innovative segment of the recovery plan under the patronage of the Ministry of Investments, Regional Development and Informatization of the Slovak Republic, which co-finances quantum infrastructures as part of the Recovery and Resilience Plan," emphasizes the temporarily appointed Minister of Investments, Regional Development and Informatization of the Slovak Republic, Veronika Remišová. The uniqueness of the proposed approach is also the creation of its own experimental-technological expertise in the field of quantum technologies in the direct involvement of Slovak scientific teams, students and innovative companies.
"The success of the skQCI project is particularly significant from the point of view of the contribution of top Slovak scientists to IT security in a regional as well as a global context. On the part of the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic, we positively perceive the fact that the project also provides an opportunity for the education and development of the skills of highly qualified experts in the field of quantum technologies at the world level," says State Secretary for Higher Education and Research, Michal Fedák.
The primary use of the Slovak quantum communication layer is the fundamentally unbreakable security of data and communication.
"In addition to the security, the creation of an experimental quantum communication network, which will enable the connection of quantum computers via teleportation communication channels, is the added value of our solution. Thanks to support from the DIGITAL programme and the Recovery and Resilience Plan, the skQCI project brought together the unique expertise of teams from the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics of the Comenius University in Bratislava, the Institute of Electrical Engineering SAS, the Institute of Experimental Physics SAS and the International Laser Center (CVTI SR), with the aim of creating a prototype of a high-efficiency photon detector, which will be tested in the created communication infrastructure with a wide spectrum of use, practically in every field of quantum technologies," says the director of the FÚ SAV, v.v.i., Mário Ziman.